Manitoba

WestJet announces direct flights between Winnipeg and Los Angeles

Manitobans will soon be able to catch a direct flight from Winnipeg to the City of Angels.

New route meant to help build ties between Hollywood and Winnipeg's TV, film industry

Bright lights, big city — here we come! Starting at the end of October, direct flights between Winnipeg and Los Angeles will take off three times a week. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Manitobans will soon be able to catch a direct flight from Winnipeg to the City of Angels.

WestJet is creating a new route to Los Angeles starting Oct. 31 that will operate three times a week all year, the airline said in a news release Wednesday.

The company said the route will help strengthen ties and provide convenient transportation between Winnipeg's entertainment industry and L.A.

"The service will reduce travel time between the cities by almost 50 per cent for every business, including those in the film and television industry, which already brings more than $1 million a day in production to the province of Manitoba," said John Weatherill, the executive vice-president and chief commercial officer for WestJet, at a celebration announcing the new route.

This is the first new route introduced out of Winnipeg Richardson International Airport in two years, and the first new major destination direct route announced there since 2016, said Winnipeg Airports Authority president and CEO Nick Hays.

"It's massive news for Manitobans," he said. "Now our community is just one flight away from those bright lights of Hollywood."

Film crews set up outside the Manitoba legislative building in December 2017, in preparation for a shoot. Those in the film and television industry have been calling for direct flights between L.A. and Winnipeg for years. (CBC)

The Manitoba TV and movie industry has long asked for direct flights between the cities.

A lack of direct flights has been a factor in productions choosing other destinations, said Rod Bruinooge, the interim CEO and film commissioner for Manitoba Film and Music — the Crown agency that supports the province's film, television and music industries.

He hopes the new route, which will operate Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, will mean more film and TV productions choose Manitoba.

Manitoba's film and TV industry brought in $364.5 million last year, Bruinooge said, and he hopes that will go up with the increased accessibility from Los Angeles.

"Where can we go from here? I'd like to think $1 billion in the next 10 years. I think it's achievable," he said at Wednesday's announcement.

WestJet also plans to increase operations to and out of Winnipeg this year by 80 per cent over 2021, with 22 nonstop direct routes, the airline said.

A woman in a long black coat stands outside in a treed and partially snow-covered area.
Erica Daniels is the owner and executive producer of Kejic Productions. She's thrilled about the direct flights between Los Angeles and Winnipeg. (Shyan Johnson Monkman)

The news is "really exciting" for filmmakers like Erica Daniels, the executive producer of Winnipeg-based Kejic Productions.

"To have that accessibility for people in the industry to come here, for more workers to be able to come here, to bring more productions to Manitoba, the time is now for that to take place," she said.

The Cree and Ojibway filmmaker from Peguis First Nation hopes the increased access will mean even more opportunities for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in the industry.

Recent projects focused on Indigenous characters, like the FX TV show Reservation Dogs and the movie Prey, prove to Daniels that this is a good time for Indigenous people in Manitoba to be more involved.

"Within the Indigenous community there's so much talent that can be brought on to these large productions, so I think being able to have that direct flight will definitely bring more opportunities," she said.

"It's such an exciting time to be a part of and witness that our voices are finally being heard and Indigenous people are finally able to be on the front lines ... and be able to tell the stories that we've always been able to share."

Manitoba film industry excited for direct flights from Winnipeg to Los Angeles

4 months ago
Duration 2:15
WestJet Airlines will fly direct from Winnipeg, Mantioba to Los Angeles, California starting October. Members of Manitoba's film and television industry say it will open new opportunities for them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Bergen is a journalist for CBC Manitoba and previously reported for CBC Saskatoon. Email story ideas to rachel.bergen@cbc.ca.

With files from Andrew Wildes

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